Fingernails Painted Red: A Feminist, Semiotic Analysis of a “Hot” Text
AbstractThis article is a feminist, semiotic analysis of a narrative text provided by a man who killed his two toddler sons, his girlfriend, an unrelated woman, and possibly two other women, including his wife. The author’s purposes were (a) to do a close analysis of the text to link the narrator’s account to gendered cultural themes and practices and (b) to demonstrate that, in some cases, researchers cannot emerge unscathed from close analyses of “hot” text, that is, narrative material that most people would find deeply disturbing. The author found that her adaptation of Barthes’s methods of analyzing Sarrasine, a short story by Balzac, helped her to manage this hot text and her emotional reactions to it. This approach allowed her to slow down the flow of the narrative and perhaps detoxify its impact on readers. A Barthian semiotic analysis might be useful for other researchers encountering hot texts.